Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Nail in the Coffin

My brother and his wife had a bad experience with an airline recently. They flew to Montana for a friend's wedding and had a wonderful time. Then, the Facebook Status Updates began:

First: "I am a slow learner, I guess, and have to be presented with the same lesson again and again at times, before it sticks. Well, this time I've got it, and here it is:

Delta is a terrible airline. NEVER fly Delta.

Burned into my mind, now. Thanks."

Then: "When I fly Southwest, nothing goes wrong.

When I fly American and something goes wrong, they make things right in some way.

When I fly Delta and something goes wrong, they make me pissed."

And then (THE NEXT DAY): "is back at the gate in Salt Lake. We were already behind, because our flight attendant was delayed. Then, we taxied out about 25 yards, before returning to the gate for maintenance.

Now, we sit."

So of course they eventually made it home. What does any of this have to do with me? Nothing really until we get to yesterday, when I dropped Thumper off at their house for a sleepover. Aerie was out of town, and they kindly agreed to take care of the boy so that I could keep my shift at the big Dance Pop/Pop Rock show. There are precious few opportunities for ushering work over the summer, so I was grateful for the chance to earn a paycheck.

Still no tie-in to Delta, I know. Stick with me.

As I was driving to their house to drop Thumper off, I touched my face and realized: I hadn't shaved. The grooming standards for ushers aren't very strict, but I generally try to show up with a clean, or semi-clean, shave. So I asked if I could borrow a disposable razor from my brother. What I got was an unused, individually wrapped disposable razor, complete with a tiny pouch of shave gel. It came, SWSIL ("Social Worker Sister-in-Law") told me, from a complimentary travel toiletries pack that Delta gave them to compensate for the fact that their flight was canceled for mechanical problems. I was grateful to have it and hurried off to the arena in time to get semi-close free parking, which is so much better than distant free parking.

Still early enough that I had time for a shave before clocking in, I busted out my cello-wrapped pack. I tore it open, applied the gel, which wouldn't lather up, and dragged the razor across my cheek. I was stunned. I talked, grumbled, and cursed to myself in the empty bathroom. The razor simply would not cut. After nearly 10 minutes of toe-curling pain, I had reduced the stubble on my face almost not at all. I may have done better if I'd tried to shave with a plastic knife from one of the concession stands.

When I exited the bathroom, I was facing a promotional stand from one of the tour's sponsors, a major brand of women's razor. Would that they had samples, but alas, they did not. I ain't too proud to shave with a girly razor.

So there you go. When Delta cancels your flight due to mechanical problems, stranding you overnight, and then delays your next day's flight, first because a flight attendant is late and then because of a "maintenance issue," they make it up to you by offering you the least effective and most painful shaving experience of your life. You're welcome!

I'd Rather Be with You Poor Bastards

I was surprised to discover that I'd been assigned "Stage Left" as my position for the big Pop Rock? Dance Pop? I don't know... show tonight. I suppose it was a dream position for most ushers, because I was on the arena floor, near the stage, in a spot that allowed me to see and hear the entire show. Or see the entire show if I weren't inclined to put my head on a swivel. Which I am. Because I'm working.

I was in a spot where my chief job was to check the credentials of anyone trying to go backstage and pull the rope from the stanchion for anyone moving from backstage to the floor. I hate working anywhere near backstage, or the corridors where the dressing rooms and locker rooms are. It stresses me out because of this dilemma: many authorized people do not display their credentials. If I ask to see credentials, or to take a closer look at the credentials flashed at me, I'll inevitably piss off some high-level VIP who thinks I should know who he is. If I don't check credentials closely enough, some poser (at best) or stalker (at worst) will inevitably slip by.

So I kept my head on a swivel, watching behind me for show staff heading out to the floor or the EMS crew stationed behind me leaping into action, and watching in front of me for people with the right credentials trying to get backstage. Tonight I got suckered. I won't tell you how, lest I teach you the techniques that will let you sucker me next time, but someone with fake credentials got past me. Repeatedly. And even escorted others without credentials. I am Jack's gaping hole in security, as Edward Norton might say. It was an odd night, because I also committed what is one of the cardinal sins for an usher: I pulled out my phone and took pictures of the show. I did it at the instruction of my supervisor, but still. It just felt so wrong. He wanted pictures of the hundred of cameras and phones that the crowd was holding up, taking photos and videos of the show. To what purpose, I don't know. To chastise the ushers at the doors for not catching all the cameras? To illustrate to the show how unenforceable a strict camera policy is?

It is sort of ironic that people spend so much money to attend the live show just to spend most of their time watching their camera's view screen as they film the giant, projected image of the star on the video screen behind the stage, an image of an image of the live event. And it strikes me as beyond futile that some of these shows have strict camera policies, with no still photos and no video. Every phone can take pictures today, and every camera and most phones can shoot video. We can stop the 30-inch-long professional lenses from coming in, but still, what can you do when the show starts and you're looking at a sea of glowing phones held up in the air, recording everything, when your supervisor told you that the show is particularly touchy about camera phones?

Anyway, it's funny that the cheap seats in Shakespeare's day were in front of the stage. Now, that's where the "friends of the show" and the "meet and greet" customers are. I'd rather spend the evening working among the modern equivalent of the Groundlings, because frankly, the nobility give me anxiety.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Thinking About Four

Thumper will very soon become a four-year-old, a landmark that has me thinking again about all the time we've spent getting here, how fast it's gone, and what's changed since all those trips to the obstetrician, mostly, I guess, because we're just about one year away from kindergarten.

Since the early days, and the days in between, much has changed, and much has stayed the same. I think I was better suited to the first couple of years. Three has been tough, with attitude, attitude, and more attitude (from both of us), as his will has developed into something, surprisingly, independent of my own. Many of our days this year have been filled with moments when he expresses an idea ("I want candy!") that I shut down ("You've already had 2 Tootsie Rolls, a piece of taffy, and a cookie; no more sugar.") causing an angry reaction ("I NEVER get candy! I guess you want me to be mad!") to which I react angrily in turn ("Never? Don't even start with that! You've already had 3 pieces of candy and a cookie just this morning! Seriously? Do we have to do this every time?") Things generally go downhill from there.

As we approach four, though, he seems to be softening, sweetening, changing his attitude, which of course is causing me to change mine. He's running and kicking and trying at soccer instead of throwing himself on the ground and making an unending series of angry faces. I've heard that four is pretty sweet. I'm desperately hoping that it's true. I've waffled back and forth since Thumper was around 1 1/2 years old, thinking I want another child and thinking maybe I just couldn't possibly handle another one. If I'd had another one to deal with while working our way through three, I think someone would've suffered, possibly permanent damage.

Now, as he moves out of three and I move closer to forty, I've been thinking more about taking drastic, mostly permanent measures. I think our family is complete now. I have a stay-at-home dad friend who tells me pretty regularly about his adventures with a 6- and 3-year-old, and man, I am not ready for those kind of adventures. His elder child has reached the landmark that I fear most of all: she has figured out that mom and dad will not kill her or seriously hurt her, and she has decided that everything else is a battle that she can win. Where do you go when you say, "I will take this away from you," and the child responds, "I don't want that anyway?" When you say, "I can outlast you," and she says, "No you can't." I am shuddering at the thought.

Anyway, I hope Thumper actually is moving towards helping me be a better dad, because it's been a long time feeling like I'm really pretty terrible at this.

And things haven't changed that much. He's still pretty danged adorable, even though he's almost four now and not almost two, like he was the last time we went to see the Biscuit Brothers at Symphony Square in June of 2009, which we did again a couple of days ago. The Biscuit Brothers haven't entirely lost their charm, and neither has this job that I mostly love, though maybe not as much as I did when he would stay where I put him and never talk back.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

No One Expects the Feminist Inquisition!

Thumper and I are feeding the ducks at the pond near the playground. He notices a mom sitting on a park bench giving a baby wipe bath to a boy about his own age. He wanders over to chat while I keep throwing bread.

I glance over, and the mom is speaking animatedly. Thumper comes back over to me, wearing his angry face.

RODIUS: What's the matter, buddy?

THUMPER: She said I was "appropriate."

R: What did you say that was inappropriate?

T: I said maybe that boy didn't want to sit down.

R: Maybe you should let her worry about that boy and mind your own business.

T: OK. I think she's mean.

R: If she's mean, just stay away from her.

T: OK. I think she's mean. Maybe she's evil.

R: She's not evil, buddy.

We walk further along to the bridge and throw the rest of bread to the ducks. He's still mopey. When the bread's gone, he lays down and says he wants to go home. I pick him up, put him on my shoulders, and head towards the parking lot. The path takes us past the bench, where the woman is still wiping down her kid. Maybe he fell in the pond or something, I don't know. I decide to ask her what happened.

RODIUS: Excuse me. Did something happen? With my son?

NUTJOB: He just started smart-mouthing me. When I told him that was inappropriate, he said his dad was over there, so I told him maybe he should go back over there before I tell his dad what he said.

R: What did he say?

N: He was smart-mouthing me and exhibiting male chauvinist behavior.

R: Well, what did he say, so I can correct him?

N: He was being a chauvinist.

R: He's three.

T: He's showing off the behavior you've shown him.

R: Lady, I'm a stay-at-home dad. I'm showing him non-traditional gender roles. I don't think I'm a chauvinist.

THUMPER: Hey, Dad! Is she mean? Dad? Dad? Is she evil and mean? Dad? Is she?

N: Well he's calling me names right now, and you're not correcting him.

R: Thinking to myself, "I'm not entirely sure he's wrong..." I say nothing.

N: Asshole!

I decide this is a fruitless endeavor and walk on. We go to the bathroom. When we're walking out, she's walking past.

NUTJOB: Asshole! Have a nice day, asshole!

RODIUS: You're the only one using words like that. You realize that don't you?

N: flips me the bird and walks away.

THUMPER: What did she say, Daddy?

R: She called me a name that's not very nice.

T: I think she's mean. I think if she's going to call you a "werdernerder," she should call herself a "werdernerder."

R: You're right.

T: She's mean.

R: Yes, she is.

I swear that I did not exaggerate, embellish, or omit in order to make myself look blameless. I really have no idea what I could have done differently.

Some days it's not worth leaving the house.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

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